Tag Archives: LLYWD

Give Forgiveness (What’cha doin’ with that rock?)

Of all the things the modern church needs to stop procrastinating with, it’s forgiveness!  Christ DIED for FORGIVENESS!  Some friends brought a paralytic to Jesus and what was the first thing he said? “Take heart my son, your sins are forgiven.”  We live forgiven lives, because of Jesus death – His blood shed for the forgiveness of our sin.  Do we hold his death in contempt when we withhold forgiveness from others?
Sunday we dealt with this issue of forgiveness.  Not one of us can escape.  We all need to forgive. We MUST! No evil could be done to us that cannot be forgiven.  Yet, because we’ve been hurt, we will hold on to a grudge or a conflict because it helps us justify our pain.  There are couple tricks our enemy likes to use to encourage us down a path of unforgiveness.
  1. We can hold it over their head. – Somehow we have allowed ourselves to be convinced that withholding forgiveness gives us power over the person who hurt us.  That is a Lie!  An unforgiving heart is not empowered, It’s imprisoned!
  2. Withholding forgiveness legitimizes my hurt. – No.  It doesn’t.  It only lengthens your hurt.
  3. They should suffer for what they did to me. – Ummm, I don’t know how to tell you this, but… They probably haven’t given it another thought.  How much time have you wasted meditating on their crime and your pain?
As we entered the service yesterday each of us was given a rock.  We were to hold that rock throughout the service.  Awkward doesn’t begin to describe it.  Hindered, restricted, annoyed also fit the bill.  I had to put it in my pocket and it rubbed my leg as I tried to worship.  I attempted to focus on God, but my mind kept returning to the rock rubbing a raw spot against my leg.  When I sat down I took it out and held it in my hand.  My leg was relieved by now I only had one hand free to follow along in my YouVersion bible app.  I was afraid I would scratch my iPad with the rock.  I couldn’t hold my wife’s hand, which we sometimes do while sitting together in church.  The rock came between us.

Finally, when I got up to sing the song of response, I let it go, laid the rock down at the alter.  I’d held it long enough that I could describe it in detail.  I could go back later and among all the rocks, I could tell you which one was mine.  The thought came to me after the final song to go back and pick it up.  THAT would have been a mistake.  I would not have wanted to answer the question later.

“What’cha doin’ with that rock?”

I would have answered honestly. “It is a reminder to me of the bad things people have done to me.  And how I need to forgiven them.”

“Well, if you’ve forgiven them, then why do you want to be reminded about what they’ve done?”

…good question

Father, help me to forgive as you did.  The same death you died on the cross for me is given to the ones who have hurt me.  I have no room to stand and judge anyone.  Thank you for forgiving meI celebrate your forgiveness and pass it on to those whom I need to forgive.

Where do you stand on the subject of forgiveness? Have you been restored after a broken relationship?  

Is there anyone from whom you are still withholding forgiveness?  Please leave a comment below.
Advertisements

Love Deeper (oh to be the kind of worshiper the Father seeks)

Have you ever sat in a restaurant and, overhearing the conversation at the table next to you, wish you could pull up a chair and listen, or even join in?
Today, at lunch, I overheard five men who were engaged in a conversation regarding the worship at their church.  Scratch that. Two men were talking and the other three were listening.  Four, if you count my wandering ear.  But I really couldn’t hear everything that was said.  You see, the music in the restaurant was too loud… (irony?)… maybe.  So you understand why I wanted to pull up a chair?
From what I could make out, the man doing most of the talking was expressing his resistance to the addition of guitar and drums.  He didn’t seem angry, just resistant.  He admitted that there was nothing “technically” wrong with guitar and drums in worship.  It’s just that he was, well, uncomfortable with them.  He didn’t like it.  He said He found himself gripping the back of the pew as they all stood and sang along and when the songs were over and he could let go to sit down, he felt relieved.  He seemed to regretted how he felt, but he wanted to be honest about it.
His friend was trying to encourage him, saying that the church needed to be relevant to the culture.  He seemed to agree and commenced to chase a rabbit wondering if it was society in general that rubbed him the wrong way; too noisy, impatient, self-absorbed, performance oriented.  And he just didn’t want to see that happen in his church.  My mind wandered after that and it sounded like their conversation did too.  I found myself thanking God that theirs was a pleasant conversation between brothers and that there was a “Truth in Love” aroma to it (and a hint of moo goo gai pan).
As a worship leader veteran of 18 years, I may have heard it all; all the complaints, criticisms, humble questions & sincere support.  I’ve received my share of anonymous letters; “God hates rock music” “Rock music has no place in the church”  “drums are a tool of the devil.”  Some of the most non-biblical statements I’ve ever heard within the church have been about worship.  And I think all our self-righteous and self-wrongness about worship comes down to us using a wrong criteria when we evaluate worship.
How do we evaluate worship?  This is a tricky business.  First, let me say, as a worship leader, I’m appreciative of every compliment I’ve received over the years.  Please don’t stop.  Your loving words are a wonderful encouragement for me.  I love my calling and my job.  And I love the people that God, in His grace, has allowed me to serve over the years.
It seems to me that most of our evaluating statements regarding our worship services utilize the words “like” and “I” a little too often.
Now, I’m not offering condemnation here.  I want to be a better worshiper!  I don’t have all the answers.  I’m still looking and learning.  I’m seeking here, to discern the premise of our worship evaluation.  I think every worshiper would agree that we worship because God commands us to in His Word.  And, moreover, we would probably agree that we worship because God is deserving of our worship.  Why then, when we evaluate worship, do we seek to resolve whether or not WE “liked it?”  Shouldn’t we be asking God what He wants?
Our worship evaluation gets off track very quickly if it doesn’t begin with this question; “God, how do You want your people to worship You?”  If we first seek to satisfy this question we are led to verses like Psalm 51:17 “The sacrifice you desire is a broken spirit.  You will not reject a broken and repentant heart.”  When was the last time you and I left worship with a broken and repentant heart?
We are also led to verses like Romans 12:1 “give your bodies to God because of all he has done for you”  OUR WHOLE SELVES!! “This is truly the way to worship him”  Do we come to worship service seeking to offer ourselves to God?  Or are we interested only what we can get from it?  Are we looking for a tingly feeling and calling it worship?  We should be throwing our lives at His feet, begging and pleading to give Him more, all of ourselves.  Instead, we can’t get out the door fast enough when worship is over.  We start checking the clock on our phone fifteen minutes into the sermon.  We prefer to sit instead of stand through the singing because our feet hurt or our back hurts or we stayed up to late last night.  We worship a Savior who had nails hammered into his feet and hands and we can’t stand for 10 minutes of singing to Him? Or sit through 30 minutes of Bible teaching?  What must God think of that kind of worship offering?  No wonder we don’t asking Him if He felt worshiped.  We probably wouldn’t like His answer.
We should be begging to stay and to sing one more song or pray one more prayer and hear one more testimony of how great our Lord is and what miracles He has done in the lives of those who surrender to Him.  “More, more! I’m not done yet.  Let me stay. Let me sing one more sing, fast or slow, I don’t care,  I MUST declare the greatness of God!”
When the service is over, may we no longer ask “Did I like this worship service?”  but instead, ask “Did God enjoy my worship?”  “Did we worship in a way that was worthy of the One we worship?”  Instead of saying “that was a great sermon” let us declare “Oh, what a great and marvelous God is our God.”  Rather than saying we like or didn’t like the music, may we proclaim “Oh, how I love Jesus!”
The growing intensity of my tone here is meant to reveal that I long to be that kind of worshiper.
If we are going to Love our God Deeper, then He will shine through in the way we worship and the way we think about worship.

Father, oh how easily my eyes drift from You.  Forgive me when I’m more disheartened by the lack of singing than I am by missing the presence of Your Spirit.  And when I’m more impressed by loud singing than by the greatness of You, please forgive me.  I am humbled in Your presence and I am a beggar, desperate for a few crumbs from Your table, yet you are inviting me to pull up a chair and sit in the place of honor with You as Your beloved child.  Thank You for what Your grace means in my life.

Do any of my thoughts here resonate with you?  Are you needing a freshness to come back to your worship?  I’d love to hear your thoughts.


Live Like You Were Dying (a confession)

My church (FSBC Lawrence, KS) is beginning a new spiritual campaign. Building off the popular song by Tim McGraw, we’re asking ourselves “What would we do if we learned we had only 30 days to live?”
I have found myself inspired by this question. For 2 months I’ve prepared for the campaign and in my review of the studies, I recognized how often I take this life for granted. Days pass and weeks, where I put off the things that matter most, in the name of working harder. It seems valiant sometimes for ministers to sacrifice for the sake of their churches. Some churches have even come to expect it, having become accustomed to pastors who have given more than should be expected. But this blog isn’t about churches expectations on pastors. It’s about pastors unrealistic expectations on themselves. Or, to be more specific, this pastor of worship’s unrealistic expectations on himself.

I’ll say upfront that I’m much better than I used to be. There was a time when I felt guilty when taking a vacation. If I sat down to read a fiction novel I would get a pain in my gut because I wasn’t using my time to study. It was difficult for me to enjoy my time with my kids, though I loved them very much. During this time I poured myself into my job and wrongfully looked for approval from the church I served only to be disappointed over and over again.

I hid my disappointments from my wife and glued a fake smile on my face for my kids. This robbed Mel of the calling God had given her – supporting a husband in ministry. Being robbed of the opportunity to fulfill one of her callings was discouraging to her and made our marriage strain. My kids, I’m sure saw me more as worship pastor than as dad, and that is a mistake I can never undo.

My upside-down paradigm of leadership (work harder, longer – neglect family and self) also lead to professional frustration. I’m sure that most of my failings came not from lack of work, but rather from a lack of balance. It is not possible to be successful in ministry following a set of rules that are out of balance with God’s grace.

No one on their death bed ever says “I wish I would have made more money.” or “I wish I would have spent more hours at work and less with family.” On the contrary, more regret spending so little time with family or regret the selfishness of their lives. Ty Cobb, who achieved wealth and fame said this at the end of his life; “I wish I had more friends.” only 3 baseball players attended his funeral in 1961.

God has, more than once, brought it to my attention that, most of the time, I’m not the father, husband or Christ follower that I should be. Jesus died so that my life would be more than this. Why have I allowed status quo? Why have I bought into the “do more/try harder” nomenclature?

Father, help me stand secure in your grace. It is enough. My pride and insecurity lead me down a path of guilt. I feel guilty when I don’t produce the result I think I should, but you have simply called me to be faithful. I trust you for results that fit your plans. I will be faithful. I become defensive when I look to satisfy my insecurity with achievement or adulation from others. Help me to find all the security I need at the foot of your cross. It is enough. Help me to be humble enough to forgive others and courageous enough to seek forgiveness.

What does it mean to you do “Live Like You Were Dying?” In what ways do you want to see more of Jesus in the way you live? Please leave comments below.


Honesty; The Best Policy

Honesty is hard! So hard that I find many people avoiding it all together. I’m not saying they have been dishonest with me. I can’t be sure. I do know this, that honesty is a must for those who choose to follow Christ.
I can think of many cliches regarding honesty and many of them seem negative. “Can I be honest with you?” “To be honest, I…” “Let me be brutally honest,” Brutally Honest? Does honesty have to be brutal?
I guess honesty can be brutal to those who prefer the world of their own ideals to the truth that is staring them in the face. Take it from a recovering idealist; Truth is better than the seduction of a false reality. But I don’t think honesty needs to be “brutal.” It’s not something that needs to brings us fear.
Jesus declared himself to be “the TRUTH, the way and the life” and No one comes to the Father except through Jesus. In order to “come to the Father” we must face the truth of who Jesus says He is and who He says we are. It is impossible to come to God with out coming through Jesus, Who is truth.
Honesty is good. And I don’t simple mean being honest by telling the truth to others. It is imperative for us to be honest with ourselves. Our failings, our brokenness, our inadequacies take on a transformational value when we are honest about them. For instance, if we treat failure with denial, we are doomed to fail again. On the other hand, if we are honest about our failure, we will seek help and advice and turn that failure into an opportunity for growth. Same goes for our brokenness and inadequacy. Healing and Courage will come from truth and honesty. Faking it, will only lead to more pain and more fear.

My prayer for “Live Like You Were Dying” is that we as a the body at FSBC will be honest to God about who we are and where we can improve.

Father help me be honest with myself about the kind of husband, father, son, employee, leader, steward I have been. Help me be honest about how I have spoken to others so that I can Speak Sweeter. Spirit, lead me to a place where I can be honest about the feebleness of my attempts to “love” others and help me to love deeper with Jesus’ love. Where I have chosen to hold on to hurt and anger and bitterness, help me to forgive others as you have forgiven me. I don’t want to wait until my life is nearly over to do the things I ought to. Lord, I realize I’m asking for a blessing I don’t deserve. Please grant me the blessing to live a transformed life.